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Santa Maria Sun / Biz Spotlight

The following article was posted on September 6th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 27 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 18, Issue 27

Spotlight on: Coast Development Partners

Don Conner, founder


Buellton and Santa Barbara County wine country will be injected with a healthy dose of nightlife next fall.

Don Conner of Los Olivos-based Coast Development Partners told the Sun that by then his firm should be wrapping up construction on its ambitious inaugural commercial property project, The Commons.

“We would describe it really as a destination retail development that combines tasting rooms, restaurants, and retail into one kind of cohesive and thoughtful design,” Conner said.

Coast Development Partners founder Don Conner says The Commons is a multi-building, large-scale complex that comprises more than 55,000 square feet of commercial space, set across nearly 5 acres of formerly undeveloped rural grazing lands off Highway 101.

The $18 million project will be around 55,000 square feet, with just fewer than 40 retail spaces. There are 16 alcohol tasting rooms, four restaurant spaces, and upwards of 20 additional retail spots. Located adjacent to the Firestone Walker Brewing Company at 610 McMurray Road in Buellton, the area was ideal, Conner said.

“We have the best of both worlds being both in the city of Buellton but also having a property line with the county,” he said, adding that the project would not be possible in the county due to permitting.

According to Conner, there is scrutiny among Santa Barbara County officials regarding tasting rooms at wineries. He said it was why most of the wine area had tasting rooms clumped together in special districts, like the Lompoc Wine Ghetto or the Funk Zone in Santa Barbara.

“If you looked at his county, it probably has upwards of 250 or so winery operations, but fewer than 50 landed wineries with the vineyard, production, and tasting room all at one location,” he explained.

The Commons addresses some of those challenges, Conner said.

“Really, this kind of project is changing the face of Santa Barbara wine country—creating this kind of one-stop destination that mixes great food, great beverage, and great retail at one spot,” he added.

One highlight of the development is a focus on local and artisan producers to fill the spaces.

“This is not the kind of development where you are going to walk in and see a Chipotle or Panda Express,” Conner said. “That was very important to us—to create a project that the locals of wine country would embrace as well as the folks coming to visit, who really do want to go where the locals go and where they can have an authentic experience.”

Another aspect developers are touting for The Commons is how it will provide a nightlife scene for an area sorely lacking one.

“We describe this area as having two sizable daytime social districts—Los Olivos and Solvang, which are fairly isolated,” Conner said, “but come nighttime here in wine country, there really is no district, so we felt there was an opportunity from a development standpoint to create a diverse social district but also create the wine country’s only nighttime district.”

Currently, The Commons has pre-leased more than 80 percent of its available space, and Conner said he expects the rest of the available room to be gobbled up as development pushes forward.

The enthusiasm from local businesses eager to capitalize on the location is essential for it to be successful, he said.

“Having a critical mass of commercial spaces that would be a draw not only for folks visiting the area but also for folks who reside here is really our goal,” Conner said. 


• Grocery Outlet Bargain Market’s seventh annual Independence from Hunger campaign raised more than $1 million to provide more than 500,000 meals to families in need, according to a company press release. In July, Grocery Outlet customers, employees, and store independent owner-operators across six states contributed food and monetary donations to help address critical food insecurity needs in their communities. “Helping tackle food insecurity is one of our core values, and we’re proud of the positive impact that the Independence from Hunger campaign is making across our communities,” Grocery Outlet Co-CEO Eric Lindberg said in a statement. 

Staff Writer Spencer Cole wrote this week’s Biz Spotlight. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, mail, or email at

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